To My Compassionate Conservative Friends
Please talk to me.
I know we have our disagreements. But it seems we should agree about Trump.
You likely believe that unregulated markets and small government lead to a more rich society that benefits us all. As a social scientist I’ve grown to accept that civilization requires strong institutions and the protecting our common interests often requires hindering the aspirations of individuals. But we both are motivated by a desire for shared prosperity. Donald Trump talks about smaller government and deregulation, but his motives are clearly selfish. His wealth (what there is of it) does not trickle down. He wants us to believe his business savvy will lead to economic success, but successful business leaders discount him.
We probably agree that efficient government, should take place at the most local scope reasonable. The details likely cause some disagreement and we might fairly accuse each other of preferring local control only for issues where our position is in the minority nationally. But Trump doesn’t even bother talking about local control, for he seeks power for himself and thus prefers it be concentrated in his White House.
You and I both are likely to feel strongly about respect for life. I am distraught over the cruelty with which we treat animals and, especially, families born in different places; you are more likely to focus on unborn humans. These are treated like such disparate issues, but we share a dismay at how our culture promotes selfish attitudes by ignoring the plight of other living, thinking creatures. Donald Trump doesn’t respect the life of unborn children any more than the life of his steaks, or even the lives of families living in fear and poverty unless they are his customer or voter. Any pro-life alliance he’s formed is in service of his popularity, so since the majority of the country is pro-choice, it seems fair to expect he’ll flip that way if elected.
The military, domestic police, intelligence services, and other forms of authority are sacred to you, deserving of respect and resources despite their status as government institutions. I consider them necessary evils and want only as much as required when diplomacy, community building, and open dialog have failed. We both, though, admire our first responders and both of us are seeking a safe, peaceful world where no one must live in fear. Trump only discusses strong government forces in terms of power assertion. The least admirable of police representatives support him, but no one who deserves the label of peacekeeper, including Republican advisors and military commanders, consider him suitable for command.
I am scared for the future of our planet as we’ve grown so large that the little things we do to the air and water are adding up to more than Earth can take. By now that it seems you’ve accepting we have a looming problem, but you don’t share my conviction that we need to address it at the sources and modify our own behaviors. What we probably share is dismay over how slowly our societies are preparing to handle inevitable, large-scale threats to our infrastructure and health. The Donald simply dismisses environmental threats, pivoting any mention of climate change to further vilification of China.
Our fundamental motives are in line with each other. So while we probably never vote for the same representatives and rarely agree on policies, I usually respect your stances and enjoy when you question mine.
But this year, you don’t have a candidate for President.
The Republican party followed the Goldwater strategy too far. Thanks to the winner-takes-all structure of American voting, in order to prevent the US from falling into the single-party trap1 they opened the tent to extremist views with “leaders” that can excite a crowd but lack the character to govern a nation2.
This year a line has been crossed. Donald Trump is not simply a poor candidate for the job, he’s dangerous and doesn’t represent you.
Donald Trump has co-opted your party for his own egocentric purposes, and brought with him a troop of immature, hateful people3 that we’d both like to pretend didn’t exist in substantial numbers in our American society.
I can’t add substantially to the discussion of whether he is a reasonable candidate. USA Today and The Atlantic have both broken their usual silence and articulated the case against Trump better than I could.
Personally, I’m solidly with Hillary. I agree with her stance on nearly every issue and find her inspiring. Like Thomas Friedman, I am “not enamored of Clinton’s stale, liberal, centralized view of politics” but consider her a model public servent. Most importantly, she is a stellar candidate for the job.
You are probably planning to abstain.
But what’s next? The left narrowly avoided populism and is about to put the White House in the hands of a proven politician. Where by “politician” I mean someone who is an expert and building consensus and finding middle ground, who can not only keep contrary ideas in her head but set aside her own ideology in the name of peace and shared prosperity.
Post-Trump, will the right have learned a lesson and also return to the civics table? It seems most likely the GOP will be torn apart as the coalition between the conservative and the hateful falters.
So what will you do?
Can the Republican party be repaired? Will a new party arise? Certainly not the Libertarians, who undermine your social priorities with their brand of anarchy for capitalists.
I suppose you could join the Democratic party and try to influence it from within. This is not as crazy as it sounds; in my hometown of St. Louis, only Democrats every hold office but the politics range widely from left to right. Many of the politicians are DINO. But I hope you don’t; a single party government undermines the balance of the American experiment.
Even if it seems an absurd idea these days, I think it would be fascinating to discuss the political future of our nation even if we have different ideals. Talk with me!
I may generally side with Democrats, but a nation where that party’s structure replaced the representative republic is far from desirable. ↩
Okay, yes, even if I agree with him on most issues Bernie Sanders is arguably as unqualified as much of the GOP field this cycle. But the Democrats didn’t actually nominate him. ↩
You might even call them, people like Alex Jones and David Duke, deplorable. ↩